Guidelines for members

When we come together to rehearse and perform one of our three main concerts in a season, or for other events, there’s an excitement and sense of togetherness that defines the way many of our players feel about APO – with some referring to the ‘APO family’. Maybe this feeling is generated from the intensity of starting to rehearse for a concert just a month before the performance, with most of the rehearsals in the two weeks before.

Practice/preparation expectations

Because we start rehearsing so close to the concert, there’s little time to ‘assimilate’ the music, so we ask that before the first rehearsal you listen to the works in the programme to ‘get into them’ and, if possible, have a look through parts available on the Internet or in extract books.

Of course, we ask you practice as much as you can, so that we can enjoy the rehearsals and get the best out of the music.

Fixing process

All of APO’s activities rely on the goodwill of volunteer musicians who choose to spend their precious free time making great music. Whether playing in a small chamber ensemble or a huge orchestra/choir, every member is vital, even in large sections such as the strings. We therefore advocate a ‘full attendance’ policy, underpinned by intelligent rehearsal scheduling and a thorough fixing process. As dates are provided in advance, we hope that all players will prioritise attending all rehearsals – having all players at every rehearsal makes such a vast difference to the quality of the rehearsal and your enjoyment of the APO playing experience.

Events are added to the APO calendar around 9-12 months in advance (complete seasons are not planned). At this point, an online fixing form is sent out to members for that event. We ask for a commitment at this stage as it helps us ensure that the event is feasible, but understand that circumstances can change between fixing and the event. If you find you are unavoidably unable to attend a rehearsal or event, you let your section coordinator know as soon as it becomes apparent.


APO runs a wind pool, so that a regular group of players shares the available parts. This is backed up by a reserve list for when members of the wind pool are unavailable. Members of the wind pool who do not play in any events for more than one year may be asked to give way to someone on the reserve list who may be able to commit more regularly.

The wind/percussion pool usually consists of the following:

  • Three members of each woodwind section
  • Five horn players
  • Three trumpeters
  • Three trombonist (including a bass trombonist) and a tuba player
  • Three percussionists, two of whom must be able to play timpani/tuned percussion

Where there are more wind pool players than parts for a programme, the players can decide between themselves how to allocate the parts fairly, taking into account previous/future allocations and players’ preferences. If necessary, decisions can be deferred to the music director, who will always make the final decision on part allocations.

Wind players who are unable to attend a rehearsal are expected to arrange a suitable dep.

String principals and seating

String principals are appointed by the music director. Their role is to provide leadership and support within the string section, often leading a section, but also sitting within and towards the back of sections and moving around during rehearsals to provide support for less confident players. The criteria for becoming a string principal are that you must be of a technical and musical standard to be able to lead your section (including the orchestra, in the case of the violins), and be a regular participant in APO events, attending most rehearsals.

The music director team and string principals try to rotate the string seating from concert to concert, taking into account all stated preferences as far as possible. No inference should be drawn from any individual placement – a player on the back desk is just as important as the front. Front desk players, particularly section leaders, are selected from the more confident players and, generally speaking, only if they can attend all or the vast majority of rehearsals. Players of all abilities and confidence are equally mixed throughout the rest of the sections.

Section principals are expected to liaise closely with the leader to co-ordinate bowings and other aspects of string technique, to achieve a unified sound. A working bowing should be made available to each section no less than one week before Rehearsal 1. It may be necessary for section leaders to meet soon after the Rehearsal 1, to have a bowing rehearsal.

Musical Development

Where possible, members are strongly encouraged to take lessons with a suitable teacher. It is vital that players continually strive to develop their capabilities. Teachers will also be able to identify bad habits players have grown into, as well as offer their experience on specific repertoire.

The orchestra seeks to engage professional tutors to take sectionals for each concert and during additional workshops/masterclasses.

Standards and feedback

The music director will be open and honest with any player who does not meet the standards laid out in this document. When such a scenario occurs, it may be necessary for the music director to decide that it is not possible for playing membership of the orchestra or choir to continue. In this case, there are a number of options for development that the music director may suggest, including:

  • playing in rehearsals but not performances
  • playing in other local ensembles which offer a better chance of development from the player’s current standard
  • playing in smaller chamber ensembles to develop specific skills

In such situations, as well as with specific part allocations, the music director will base any decisions purely on musical ability. Any extra-musical issues, whether positive or negative, will continue to be dealt with by the executive committee, in line with the orchestra’s constitution.

The music director will seek, when necessary, advice from the APO committee and any other parties (in an appropriate, honest and discreet manner), when making any decisions about the playing membership.

As always with such documents, there may be exceptions to some of the policies outlined above. However, in all musical matters, the music director’s decision is final.